Bush’s Iraq invasion, 15 years later

This 20 March 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

“It Was A Crime”: 15 Years After U.S. Invasion, Iraqis Still Face Trauma, Destruction & Violence

It was 15 years ago today when the U.S. invaded Iraq on the false pretense that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

The attack came despite worldwide protest and a lack of authorization from the United Nations Security Council. At around 5:30 a.m. in Baghdad on March 20, 2003, air raid sirens were heard as the U.S. invasion began.

The fighting has yet to end, and the death toll may never be known. Conservative estimates put the Iraqi civilian death toll at 200,000. But some counts range as high as 2 million.

In 2006, the British medical journal Lancet estimated 600,000 Iraqis died in just the first 40 months of the war. The U.S. has also lost about 4,500 soldiers in Iraq. Just last week, seven U.S. servicemembers died in a helicopter crash in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

The war in Iraq has also destabilized much of the Middle East. Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others have directly blamed the U.S. invasion of Iraq for the rise of ISIS.

We speak to the Iraqi-French sociologist Zahra Ali, who teaches at Rutgers University; Matt Howard, co-director of About Face: Veterans Against the War, the organization formerly known as Iraq Veterans Against the War; and Sami Rasouli, founder and director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams in Iraq.

This 20 March 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

15 Years of Mass Destruction in Iraq

On the 15th anniversary of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, CODEPINK‘s Medea Benjamin and scholar Sabah Alnasseri discuss the war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and more than 4,500 American troops–and that changed Iraq and the Middle East forever.

‘HOW DECADES OF U.S. WAR IN IRAQ SHAPED — AND SCATTERED — ONE FAMILY’ “‘I used to be okay,’ said Hilda Simonian, who regularly suffers from paranoia and flashbacks 20 years after reaching safety in Canada.” [HuffPost]

By a margin of 2 to 1, Americans now say 15 years after the Iraq War that it was a mistake.

Fifteen years ago today, on the night of March 20-21, 2003, the armed forces of the United States and Great Britain began an illegal and unprovoked invasion of Iraq, a country of 26 million people. As bombs and missiles began to rain down on Iraq’s cities, and tanks and armored vehicles crossed the border from Kuwait, US President George W. Bush set in motion a war of aggression whose catastrophic consequences now shape world politics: here.

Murdered Brazilian Marielle Franco, don’t forget her

This 19 March 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Former Brazilian President Lula: It’s Clear Marielle Franco’s Assassination Was Premeditated

In a Democracy Now! exclusive, we spend the hour with Brazil’s former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is now running for president again. We begin our discussion with the assassination of 38-year-old Rio city councilmember and human rights activist Marielle Franco, who was killed last week.

Franco, who was a black lesbian, was known for her fierce criticism of police killings in Brazil’s impoverished favela neighborhoods. Her death comes at a pivotal moment for Brazil and the future of democracy in South America’s largest country. Just last month, President Michel Temer ordered Brazil’s military to assume control of police duties in Rio. “The only thing that she did was to work against the assassination of black people in the peripheral areas in the defense of human rights”, says Lula da Silva.

This 16 March 2018 video is called Protests in Brazil after politician Franco was shot dead | Al Jazeera English.

By Miguel Andrade in Brazil:

Mass protests in Brazil against death squad assassination of Marielle Franco

21 March 2018

The brutal execution of Rio de Janeiro city counsellor Marielle Franco on the night of Wednesday, March 14, by still unknown gunmen came as a shock for most Brazilians, but not as a surprise.

Mass spontaneous demonstrations erupted on the following night, with those participating blaming the state as the perpetrator, or at least a direct accomplice.

Franco was killed in a rain of 13 bullets in the context of the unprecedented federal takeover of Rio’s law enforcement, which on February 16 saw President Michel Temer remove the state’s law enforcement secretary and hand the Army’s Eastern Division commander, Gen. Walter Souza Braga Netto, absolute power to overrule security-related decisions by any elected official, up to and including changing internal regulations of law enforcement agencies.

The military intervention was decreed by Temer after fraudulent, hysterical claims by the corporate media of a supposed crime wave during Rio’s world-famous Carnival. Later findings by major papers, such as Folha de S. Paulo, showed that the crime rate during Carnival was actually 35 percent lower than in 2016, at the height of Brazil’s worst economic crisis in a century.

Marielle Franco, a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), a parliamentary split-off from the PT, was in her first term as a city councilor in Rio’s 51-member Municipal Chamber. She was elected in the 2016 municipal elections, with 46,000 votes, the fifth-largest vote for any candidate. Before that, she had served for 10 years as a parliamentary assistant to the party’s main public figure in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Freixo, who was defeated as a mayoral candidate in the 2016 elections by the Christian chauvinist Marcelo Crivella.

Freixo’s, Franco’s and ultimately PSOL’s popularity in the city of Rio, where the party holds the second largest caucus in the municipal legislature, contrasts with its marginal role in Brazilian politics and has been cultivated chiefly through a criticism of the barbaric practices of the state’s Military Police. This criticism carries with it significant risks. Freixo was forced into a brief Spanish exile in 2011, after the city’s investigations department admitted having uncovered no less than 27 plots to murder him.

Freixo’s most prominent activity as state representative had been his heading of a 2008 state parliamentary inquiry commission (CPI) exposing police involvement with vigilante groups—known as milícias—acting mainly in impoverished working class neighborhoods in Rio’s industrial northern sector. By this point, Franco, who had been born and lived in the northern Complexo da Maré favela (shanty-town), was already working with him.

After being elected in 2016, she was tapped at the end of February to head the city legislature’s commission tasked with overseeing the federal intervention, of which she had been a known critic both as an activist and a close observer, coming home daily to Maré, where she was heading on the day of her execution.

Known as a participant in black nationalist and feminist politics—she had left a black feminist meeting in downtown Rio on the night she was killed—she had also won support among workers in the northern sector, above all for exposing police violence. Just four days before her execution, she shared on social media reports of the police killing and dumping of the bodies of two youth in the Acari favela, which was made famous last year by the death of a 13-year-old girl struck by a stray bullet while drinking water in her schoolyard.

Franco’s last social media posts replicated workers’ accounts of the reign of terror in Acari by the city’s 41st Police Battalion, which was replicating, ostensibly on its own without orders from superior officers, the individual profiling of the neighborhood’s inhabitants carried out by troops intervening in other favelas. Soldiers there have been ordered to lay siege to communities and photograph and write down information from workers’ IDs as they leave for their jobs in the morning. The 41st Battalion is the deadliest in the city, responsible for an average of 100 killings a year, and was referred to by Franco as “the death battalion.”

While law enforcement, including Brazil’s far-right intelligence chief, Sergio Westphalen Etchegoyen, have been unanimous in declaring that Franco was executed, state agents have tried to pin the blame on drug lords or milícia members, which are widely portrayed by the government and the press as rogue elements from law enforcement agencies.

The shell casings found from the bullets that killed Franco have been traced to a cache that was produced for Brazil’s Military Police.

The president of Rio’s chapter of Brazil’s Bar Association (OAB), Felipe Santa Cruz, echoed the law enforcement view after leaving a meeting with General Braga Netto, declaring to Folha de S. Paulo on March 15: “It is clear that when you shake up the structures of law enforcement you may have a reaction. Why not accept that the sector affected by these changes, the corrupt, are trying to demoralize the Brazilian state?”

He then proceeded to compare Franco’s execution to the so-called Riocentro Bombing, a botched attack on a May Day event by far-right elements in the army during the decline of Brazil’s 1964-1981 US-backed military dictatorship. The bombing was supposed to be blamed on left-wing guerrillas and offset the decline of military rule—a plot that went awry when the bomb exploded in the hands of the soldier responsible for planting it.

A far more obvious analogy would be to the death squads that operated under the dictatorship, kidnapping, torturing and murdering opponents of the military regime. The political repression carried out by the military was accompanied by a parallel activity—backed by the government and funded by businesses—by off-duty police and others to exterminate the so-called marginalized and allegedly criminal elements of the population. This latter activity has never ceased.

The line toed by Santa Cruz, generally considered by human rights activists as an “ally,” is the most convenient for the Brazilian ruling elites, which are moving rightward at an alarming pace, portraying the military intervention in Rio as the only possible defense of democracy.

While President Temer only went so far as to say, coldly, that the execution is “an attack on democracy”, intelligence chief Etchegoyen declared to the capital’s main daily, Correio Braziliense, that “our intelligence would be very stupid if it allowed an attack that weakened the intervention … it would make no sense to kill a critic of the intervention in order to weaken it.” Etchegoyen’s line is clear: the military is not willing to allow the investigation into Franco’s death to expose state agents as responsible as this would weaken the military intervention in Rio.

Whatever the findings of the investigation into Franco’s execution—and there is no reason to believe that there will be any credible ones—the political establishment will be pushed further rightward, in opposition to the fundamental social and democratic rights of the working class, and closer to dictatorship.

The commander of the Brazilian Army, General Eduardo Villas Bôas, declared to the press on February 19, three days after the beginning of the intervention, that the military would need “guarantees to act without the risk of being subjected to a truth commission in the future”, referring to the … commission that, during the administration of Workers Party President Dilma Rousseff, was tasked with trying to uncover crimes carried out under the US-backed military dictatorship.

Franco, in her capacity of heading a committee overseeing the military intervention, would conceivably have been able to provide material for such a future truth commission into the crimes by the military against the workers and poor of Rio.

While clearly serving to intimidate any opposition to the intervention and bolster the barbaric sentiments within the military, Franco’s execution is being exploited by the security forces as a justification for even greater repression. Arguing that the only possible suspects in her killing are criminals—either drug lords or corrupt state officials in the milícias trying to undermine the state, they insist that the military intervention needs to be deepened. The “war on drugs”—Latin America’s counterpart to the “war on terror”—demands even greater emergency powers for the state.

Etchegoyen had already declared as early as August 2017 that he feared “organized crime intervention in the elections”, telling G1.com that the end of corporate financing of elections—ruled upon by the Supreme Court that year—would “open the way for the organized crime to sponsor candidates”, which would mean “a clear threat to institutional security.” Their interest, according to a January 11 BBC interview with Brazil’s former drug control secretary Walter Maierovitch, would be backing candidates who would “cut deals to reduce police repression in some areas.”

Thus, military violence will be accompanied by a massive state propaganda campaign associating political opposition with the most venal interests—the standard accusation leveled against Franco by Brazil’s far-right. This was clearly shown with the allegations made by MBL—the main organizers of the right-wing demonstrations in favor of former Workers Party president Dilma Rousseff’s 2016 impeachment—claiming that Franco was a friend of Marcinho VP, a drug lord, and her execution had been part of a gang war.

This 19 March 2018 video is called Exclusive: Brazilian Presidential Candidate Lula on Facing Jail as He Runs for President Again.

This 19 March 2018 video is called Brazil’s Former President Lula on U.S. Intervention in Latin America & 15th Anniv. of Iraq Invasion. It says about itself:

We continue our conversation with former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The former union leader co-founded Brazil’s Workers’ Party and served as president from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. As he runs for president again, we discuss the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and U.S. interference in Latin America.

Turkish soldiers, ‘Free Syrian’ puppets looting Afrin in Syria

This video says about itself:

In Afrin the Turks are Looting and Pillaging with Gunfire

20 March 2018

Journalist for the Independent, Patrick Cockburn, returning from Northern Syria says one of the most peaceful places in the region has turned into a swamp of human misery for the Kurds.

This 19 March 2018 video is called FSA [Free Syrian Army, puppets of Turkey’s Erdogan] busy looting civilians’ properties in Afrin.

Turkey’s seizure of Afrin and the growing danger of a regional war the Middle East: here.

United States FBI spying on Black Lives Matter

This 20 March 2018 video about the USA is called FBI Spied On Black Activists.

An Intercept report about that is here.

Torture in Abu Ghraib, Iraq

This video says about itself:

20 March 2018

On the 15th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, former prisoners at Abu Ghraib recall the torture they suffered.

Brazil not forgetting murderd Marielle Franco

This video says about itself:

20 March 2018

As Brazil prepares for more mass demonstrations in memory of Marielle Franco, and protests continue around the world, we speak to David Miranda, a close friend of the murdered activist, and like her, a member of Rio’s City Council and fellow LGBT activist.